Kia may have established itself as the go-to brand for economic crossovers and cheap compacts, but what about those eager to take their vehicles off-road for an adventure? If you want a cheap, reliable, and feature-rich off-road SUV, most people probably wouldn’t look to a Kia dealer to fulfill them, but—believe it or not—you can actually get some good mileage out of a Kia on off-road excursions.
Some Kia models are just rugged enough to offer you the utility and functionality you would need to venture off the pavement and hoof it in the wilds. From infotainment to storage, this South Korean automaker brings all the fun and function you could want while still being affordable. If you’re the type who regularly takes to the outdoors, you can get the most out of your adventures with a Kia.
Navigating to Your Favorite Hiking Spot
As an outdoor adventurer, one of the most crucial things to consider before embarking on a hiking trip is how you will navigate to your starting point, especially if it’s unfamiliar. Despite its seeming simplicity, navigation is vital when venturing into the wilderness, either for getting to your destination or finding your way back from a secluded or remote area that isn’t easy to find on most physical maps.
Here is where Kia’s lineup shines. No matter what size or type of vehicle you choose from Kia, each trim level comes with distinct features. Take, for example, the three-row Kia Telluride; for many newer iterations of the SX-Prestige and SX Prestige X-Line trims, you can expect features like voice-activated navigation and 360 Surround View accessible through their infotainment touchscreen interfaces.
With voice-activated navigation, you have easy-to-use access to your navigation app; with the 360 Surround View, you have a vast vantage of your exterior surroundings, so you’re aware of everything that’s around your vehicle and can thus navigate rough terrain with confidence. Whether you opt for the Sorento, Telluride, or Sportage, these two features—voice-activated navigation and 360 Surround View—are great instruments to have when planning your next explorations.
The Sorento is the intermediary between the compact Sportage and the three-row Telluride, though it, too, has three rows of seating. Its standard 2.5L I-4 engine gets you 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque—solid metrics for coursing up mountainsides. You can, however, upgrade to a Turbo version of this engine (which we recommend doing) for nearly 50% more power and torque, at 281 hp and 311 lb-ft, respectively.
The Sportage has its own 2.5L I-4, getting you 187 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque—stats nearly comparable to those of the Sorento. The Telluride is the second-best option after the Sorento’s Turbo engine for scaling steep slopes, with its 3.8L V6 getting 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. Again, it’s torque you’ll want to prioritize for those uphill battles.
Handling Rugged Off-Road Challenges in a Kia
When embarking on a hiking trip, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to push your vehicle to its limits. Typically, the only role your vehicle plays in your outdoor adventure is getting you to the hiking spot; once you arrive, your vehicle simply serves as your base of operations. Therefore, all you really need is for your vehicle to transport you to the hiking spot and provide a comfortable resting place.
That being said, you still need a vehicle capable enough to take you off the paved road without getting stuck, getting damaged, or having issues traversing the common pathways that lead to many hiking trails, such as dirt or gravel roads, steep hills, riverbeds, or other environmental challenges. In that regard, you’ll need at least some degree of off-road capabilities from your SUV—and Kia is prepared for that.
The Kia Sportage X-Pro, for instance, comes with multi-terrain drive modes—like Normal, Smart, Sport, and Snow—so you’ll have some light off-road capabilities when traveling away from the asphalt. With BFGoodrich All-Terrain Tires, active all-wheel drive with a center locking differential, and various exterior utility functions, you have a vehicle that offers just enough off-road capabilities for those looking to get to the summit stocked and unimpeded.
If you need more interior capacity, the X-Line trims of the Kia Sorento S, EX, and SX Prestige in all-wheel drive mode are more up your alley. Their turbocharged powertrain delivers up to 311 lb-ft of torque, and this model has a smart power tailgate and high-utility roof rails.
On the larger side of Kia’s offerings, the three-row Telluride is available in five different trims, some of which accommodate off-road traversal. The X-Line provides utility roof rails, up to 5,000 lbs worth of towing capacity, and increased ground clearance with improved approach and departure angles; the SX Prestige X-Pro, in particular, even comes with 18-inch wheels with all-terrain tires so you can handle gravel and dirt roads with ease—perfect for reaching those hard-to-reach hiking spots.
Storage for Your Gear (or Yourself)
Some hikes will take you far away from the lights and concrete of civilization. If you plan on staying at a location overnight, you will likely need to bring camping equipment to sleep under the stars or sleep in your vehicle. When it comes to the latter, the Sorento and Sportage might not be the best options unless you’re petite and doing a solo hike; even with the seats folded down, you’re looking at a maximum cargo volume of 74.1 cu.ft. of space in the Sportage and up to 75.5 cu.ft. in the Sorento.
This amount of space, however, is certainly enough for your gear and any adventuring equipment you may bring; the roof rails will help with that, too. There’s plenty of room for cables, clamps, shoes, gloves, first aid kits, and satellite phones in the rear storage compartments; your cargo area or roof rails, meanwhile, are perfect for walking sticks, skis, poles, kayaks, paddles, rope, harnesses, hammocks, tents, grills, coolers, etcetera.
The Kia Telluride provides a bit more interior cargo capacity if you don’t feel like setting up a tent and sleeping outdoors; maybe you enjoy hiking, climbing, and exploring the great outdoors, but you’re not too keen on dealing with creepy crawlers making their way into your tent at night. The Telluride offers nearly 90 cu.ft. of interior cargo volume and up to 178.1 cu.ft. of total interior passenger volume.
So if you want to take advantage of the multi-zone climate control, heated and ventilated seating, and leather upholstery to get the most out of your outdoor trip, it’s a shoo-in with the X-Line trims of the Kia Telluride. It’s a quaint, comfortable basecamp to come back to after spending the day hiking through muddy, snowy, wooded, or rocky trails.
A Kia for Every Hiker
Even though Kia isn’t known for being an enthusiast off-road brand with high-impact, super rugged vehicles, their lineup is capable enough for those doing some moderate outdoor adventuring. For hikers, in particular, you have plenty of interior capacity with the Sorento, Sportage, and Telluride for carrying gear and equipment.
Kia’s infotainment suite offers convenient navigation systems for finding your way to any location and returning safely home. The Telluride also provides comfortable travel for those who use their Kia as a mobile base. Whether you’re a casual or enthusiastic hiker, consider visiting a Kia dealer to find a suitable ride for your future expeditions in challenging outdoor locations.